Owensboro Ballroom Dance Club swings into 30th year

Feb. 4—It was Jan. 16, 1993, when the Owensboro Ballroom Dance Club debuted with a four-hour event at the Moose Lodge off Lee Rudy Road.

Tonight, the club will celebrate its 30th anniversary and Valentine's Day ball from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Senior Community Center of Owensboro-Daviess County, 1650 W. Second St.

Over the years, club members have been able to strut their moves at a number of venues, including Brescia College, English Park Hall, RiverPark Center, the former Executive Inn Rivermont, and at events like Friday After 5 and the Owensboro Multicultural Festival. Members have also performed at several assisted-living and nursing homes.

Dancers have also been able to capture the high-energy of live bands performing — ranging from acts such as Bob Minnette & The Swing Cats, The Marlinaires and the National Ballroom Operators Award-winning Bobby Layne Orchestra.

Members of the organization are taking the milestone in stride.

"We've just had a lot of fun," said Lisa Van Bussum, current president, treasurer and secretary of the board who also teaches dance lessons with her husband, Sam Van Bussum, a board member and DJ. "We've met a lot of people through the years."

While the club has remained strong, it has faced obstacles in recent times.

"COVID was challenging," Sam Van Bussum said. "We're trying to reorganize and regroup."

"We closed down for two years because our venue at the time (wasn't holding) events (due to the pandemic)," said Ellen Higdon, public relations coordinator and decorations coordinator who has been a long-time member with her husband, Ed Higdon, a board member and DJ. "Now that we've started back up again, some of the older members have had health problems. So, we're trying to get it going (again)."

In the early days, the club had more than 50 couples participating. But Higdon and others are happy with having a dedicated 10 to 15 couples still involved.

And while COVID threw a wrench in many plans for clubs and organizations, Higdon said a small group made up of younger dance enthusiasts were eager to continue taking classes during the uncertain time.

"We started (holding classes) at our house — first we did it outside," she said. "We also did it in the garage and on the driveway, and they were just loving it; and then every weekend, they would have their own practices at their own houses."

"People from all aspects of life have taken lessons and have been to the dances," said Claudia Wilson, who has been involved with the club since its inception with husband Harold Wilson. "It doesn't matter who you are or what you do — there's nothing like it."

The styles of dance the club explores and teaches includes cha-cha, foxtrot, rumba, swing and waltz.

"When someone comes and they don't know ballroom dance, we just say 'Just do whatever you want,' " Higdon said. "Some people have come that have taken some lessons, but they still need help; and so they'll ask any of us, and we'll just kind of go over to the side and help them with it.

"If anybody has trouble, (we) tell them, 'The lights are turned down low. Nobody minds if you make a mistake.' "

But the club goes beyond moving to the music.

"It's not just physical exercise," Higdon said. "It's mental exercise because you're learning the steps, what to do, when to do it, and it keeps you going."

"Research has shown that ballroom dancing forces you to use both sides of your brain," Lisa Van Bussum said. "(And) people will tell you ... that whenever they're dancing, or learning to dance or whatever you're dancing, it's a good stress reliever because it puts you in a different mindset all together."

"Some of the students we have this time have mentioned they have social anxiety," Sam Van Bussum said, "and they're using (this) to help break outside (their comfort zone)."

Regardless of people's involvement with the club, members hope they leave with a positive experience.

"I hope they're smiling," Claudia Wilson said.

"I really hope they really enjoyed being there, they enjoyed dancing and had a great time," Lisa Van Bussum said, "and that they're gonna come back."

Admission to tonight's ball for nonmembers is $13 for a single and $25 for a couple.

Membership fee for the club is $50 per person and $100 per couple for six dances, which Higdon said saves money in the long run.

"If you're a member, it's like getting two dances free," she said. "You're getting $50 off. It's a good deal."

Those interested in attending are encouraged to dress up and bring an hors d'oeuvre to be shared with others in attendance. Soft drinks will be available.

Other themed dances scheduled this year will take place April 29, June 10, Aug. 12, Oct. 14 and Dec. 9 at the senior center.

Dance classes have also resumed.

For more information and updates on the upcoming dances and classes, visit the group's page — "Owensboro Ballroom Dance Club" — on Facebook or call 270-314-3731.